Major League Baseball Umpire Jim Joyce made one of the most critical and and fan-popular calls of his career the other night in Phoenix. But it had nothing to do with America’s pastime.
The 24-year veteran umpire rushed to perform life-saving CPR on a food service worker before the game this week between the Florida Marlins and the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks, Russ Amaral, vice present of ballpark operations, told the Los Angeles Times.
Joyce, the game’s umpire crew chief who was scheduled to call balls and strikes behind the plate, was walking down a ramp that leads to the umpire’s dressing room when he spotted trouble, Amaral said. Food service worker Jane Powers suddenly grabbed a co-worker’s arm, began shaking and fell to the ground.
Amaral said the woman suffered from cardiac arrest.
Joyce told MLB.com that he knew he had to act quickly. “I knew something was wrong,” he said. “And I knew if something wasn’t done, this lady could actually die in front of me. It was more instinct than anything else.”
While he was performing CPR, Joyce sang the song “Staying Alive” as a way of keeping his rhythm for the compressions. While the quick-thinking ump – who learned CPR in high school – went to work, others pitched in for what was best described as a team effort, Amaral said.
Soon, Marlins bullpen coordinator Jeffrey Urgelles arrived on the scene. The former firefighter and paramedic in the Miami-Dade County area assisted Joyce and stuck around to aid arriving paramedics.
“I ran down the hallway and the lady was down on the ground,” Urgelles told MLB.com. “When I got there, there was a lady down and two people there. One of the guys was doing compression. That man ended up being Jim Joyce, the umpire. Until then, I didn’t know who he was until late last night.”
Powers was taken to a local hospital, where she regained consciousness. By then, Joyce was getting ready to get behind home plate. While fellow umpires offered to let him work third base, a less strenuous assignment, he refused, Amaral said.
Even though he didn’t know whether the woman survived, Joyce knew the game had to go on. “I couldn’t stand on third base and think about it all night,” he told MLB.com. “And my job is to do my rotation in the crew, and nothing would have kept me from working the plate last night. Not only that, I could get my mind off it because there’s action on every pitch.”
During the game, officials told the ump that Powers had survived and was doing well. “The doctors said, ‘I’ll tell you what -- if it wasn’t for the first person who was on scene … there’s a very fairly decent chance this would not have turned out well, and she might not have made it to the hospital at all,’” Amaral told the Times.
Joyce said the news put his mind at ease.
“Obviously I wanted to know, unless it had been bad news,” he said. “My wife actually told everyone if it’s bad news, you don’t tell him. Because I wouldn’t have been able to continue.”
On Tuesday night, Joyce and his wife visited Powers in the hospital. Joyce asked Powers whether she remembered him singing to her.
“She didn’t remember that,” he said. “But she told my wife she remembered my voice. I was yelling for her to come back and everything. She said she recognized my voice, so that’s really kind of cool.”
The next night, Joyce was overcome with emotion as he arrived at the ballpark, where he and Urgelles were recognized for their efforts in a brief ceremony as some fans held signs praising the umpire who gained notoriety in 2010 when his missed call at first base cost Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game.
He went over to the third-base line to take photos with one fan who held a placard that called him a hero.
“Maybe I’m weird,” Amaral told the Times, “but I think baseball fans are a pretty forgiving group. People who despised what an umpire did to bring fame upon himself, good or bad, like missing an important call, anyone who remembered the perfect game scenario had a change of heart. I’m happy for Jim. It’s why good people do good things.”
Officials later told Joyce that Powers was having a pacemaker implanted and would soon be released from the hospital.
Then she’ll be safe at home, thanks to a quick-thinking umpire.